I’m often asked about the status of LCCs in general and about the South Atlantic LCC in particular, to which I usually reply, “they’re in transition.” While this transition is a continuing and evolving process, with different pathways in different parts of the country, I wanted to provide my perspectives on the status of the South Atlantic LCC and on our roles as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) staff as this process continues.
The LCC transition began in recent federal budget cycles, as the FWS determined it would no longer provide dedicated staff or funding for LCC operations. This decision affected the entire network of 22 LCCs, but as self-directed partnerships, different LCCs have responded in different ways to the absence of dedicated FWS staff and funding. For example, the Gulf Coast Prairie LCC has disbanded, while the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks and Peninsular Florida LCCs have suspended their operations and will reevaluate if something changes. On the other hand, LCCs in Alaska continue to operate and have funded staff positions using non-governmental, private foundation funds. In reality, there’s really no single term to describe the status of all LCCs.
But let’s focus specifically on the South Atlantic LCC. As a self-directed partnership, with its own organizational structure and charter, the South Atlantic LCC continues to exist despite the lack of dedicated FWS staff support or funding. Its steering committee has taken no action to disband, suspend, or reorganize. In fact, the South Atlantic LCC steering committee continues to meet on regular calls in support of collaborative landscape-scale conservation in the region. There’s just no “dedicated staff” or funding support provided by FWS for LCC operations. Notably, the FWS remains committed, at national and regional levels, to collaborative, landscape-scale conservation, and continues to provide an active and participating member on the South Atlantic LCC steering committee.
The lack of dedicated staff means that as FWS employees, or contractors paid with FWS funds, we no longer directly coordinate the activities of the South Atlantic LCC steering committee, or are guided by steering committee direction on how we spend our time. Instead, when invited to do so, we participate in South Atlantic LCC steering committee meetings and report out on progress and relevant initiatives that support landscape-scale conservation in the region.
So, if we’re not dedicated staff to the LCC, what is it that Rua, Amy, Hilary, Louise, and I do these days? We’re still working to support, improve, and promote the Blueprint, with more emphasis on regional integration and application through the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS). In fact, my job duties now officially include designation as SECAS Coordinator. So instead of LCC staff, think of us as support staff for the South Atlantic and Southeast Conservation Blueprints. We’re able to continue work on the Blueprint because it advances key FWS and state priorities, including supporting SECAS, at-risk species conservation, State Wildlife Action Plan implementation, and Gulf of Mexico restoration.
The good news is that FWS and state fish and wildlife agencies want the Blueprint to continue to be a broadly inclusive, bottom-up plan for shared conservation action. This means no matter what organization you’re part of, you can still get our help using the Blueprint, and you can still be a part of improving the Blueprint and deciding where it goes in the future. Our ability to continue that work is a testament to the strong relationships we enjoy in the South, and the great progress and significant accomplishment that you have been part of. Thank you!
I hope this provides some clarity regarding the status of the South Atlantic LCC and our roles. As the transition continues, some aspects of this may change, and I’ll provide updates as it does.